The Campaccio Cross Country race in San Giorgio su Legnano, the third leg of the IAAF Cross Country Permit series, will mark its 60th edition with a star-studded field on Friday (6).
The line-up features Olympic champions Faith Kipyegon and Conseslus Kipruto, Olympic 5000m silver medallist Hellen Obiri, world cross-country champion Agnes Tirop, defending Campaccio champion Imane Merga and former Campaccio winners Muktar Edris and Albert Rop.
Merga, the 2011 world cross-country champion, took a close win in last year’s race, edging Hasin Haji in a thrilling final sprint. Merga achieved another top-three placing in 2014 when he was third behind Rop, who also returns to San Giorgio su Legnano this year.
Rop, the first runner from Bahrain to win in San Giorgio su Legnano, finished seventh in the 5000m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
A few months after winning the 2012 world U20 5000m title in Barcelona, Edris scored an Italian cross-country double when winning at the Campaccio and Cinque Mulini races in 2013 as a teenager. He went on to take bronze in the junior race at that year’s World Cross Country Championships and two years later he earned the same colour medal in the senior race.
Edris, who won two IAAF Diamond League races over 5000m last summer, showed good shape last Saturday when he won the Boclassic 10km road race in Bolzano, beating Merga by two seconds.
Kenya will be represented by Kipruto and Jairus Birech, two of the world’s best steeplechasers at present.
Following world silver medals in 2013 and 2015, Kipruto triumphed in Rio with an Olympic record of 8:03.28. During a highly successful 2016 season, the 2012 world U20 champion won the Diamond Race and set a lifetime best, clocking 8:00.12 in Birmingham.
Birech finished fourth in the 3000m steeplechase at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 and won the Diamond Race in 2014 and 2015. More recently, he finished third last Saturday in the Boclassic 10km race.
Leonard Patrick Komon is another top Kenyan contender. The 10km and 15km world record-holder will be returning to San Giorgia su Legnano, having finished second in 2011.
Italian hopes will be carried by rising stars Yeman Crippa and Yohanes Chiappinelli, who recently reached the podium at the European Cross Country Championships on home soil in Chia.
Following his back-to-back under-20 gold medals in 2014 and 2015, Crippa earned the European under-23 bronze medal in Chia. He was also the top Italian finisher at the Boclassic in Bolzano last weekend, finishing seventh.
Chiappinelli took the under-20 silver medal in Chia, having won the steeplechase at the 2015 European Junior Championships. At the IAAF World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016, he clocked 8:32.66 to break the Italian U20 record that had been held by Francesco Panetta for 34 years.
European under-20 10,000m champion Pietro Riva is another top Italian entrant.
High hopes for Campaccio debutante Kipyegon
Kipyegon will be making her first Campaccio appearance. The world 1500m silver medallist won two world junior cross-country titles and has twice won at the Cinque Mulini race in the neighbouring town of San Vittore Olona. Last year she also won the Cross de Italica race in Seville.
Kipyegon’s main rival will be Agnes Tirop, who became the youngest ever senior women’s winner at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships since Zola Budd in 1985 when she won the gold medal in Guiyang in 2015 at the age of 19.
Last weekend the 21-year-old Kenyan won the Boclassic 5km road race ahead of Ethiopian runners Gelete Burka and Etenesh Diro, who will be also in the Campaccio line-up.
The impressive Kenyan trio is completed by Obiri, who took the Olympic silver medal in the 5000m in Rio, the 2012 world indoor 3000m title in Istanbul and the 2013 world 1500m bronze medal in Moscow. Obiri recently beat Kipyegon in the Athletics Kenya Cross Country Series in Machakos in mid-December.
Burka has shown great versatility during her career. She won the 2008 world indoor 1500m title in Valencia, the 2015 world 10,000m silver medal in Beijing and won the 2006 world cross-country short course title in 2006.
Diro finished fifth in the steeplechase at the London 2012 Olympic Games and sixth at the IAAF World Championships Moscow 2013.
“We are proud to present an outstanding line-up with a lot of world-class runners,” said the event’s technical director, Marcello Magnani. “We have never seen so many stars together in the same race in San Giorgio su Legnano and we are also happy to offer the best Italian stars of the moment.”
The event marks the start of an important year for cross-country races in Italy with landmark editions of the top two Italian competitions. Two weeks after Campaccio, the Cinque Mulini will celebrate its 85th edition on 22 January.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF